When hurtful words are being said between students, sometimes it is necessary to have a whole group reset. One of my favorite activities to kick off a reset is what I call “The Crinkled Heart.” I do this activity as a whole group demonstration and it is very impactful!
All you need is one piece of construction paper, a scissors, a piece of tape, and a marker. Also, the more you sell it, the better!
Here is the process I use:
In front of students, fold the piece of paper in half.
Then, begin to cut out half of a heart.
Students can make guesses about what they think you are cutting out etc.
Once you are done cutting, unfold the whole heart.
Explain to students that the heart represents our feelings.
Say: “Think about a time when someone has given you a compliment.”
Give students a few seconds to think.
Say: “Think about how the compliment made you feel.”
Give students a few more seconds to think.
Say: “Now, think about a time when someone has said something hurtful to you. How did that make you feel? Probably the opposite way that a compliment made you feel.”
Say: “Sometimes people say things that hurt our feelings. And sometimes we say things that hurt other people’s feelings.”
As you say this, start crinkling and crushing the heart together. Students will probably gasp or have a surprised reaction.
Say: “Our words can really effect other people’s hearts, feelings, and attitudes.”
As you say this, keep crinkling the heart more until it is in a crunched ball.
Hold the crushed ball out for students to see.
Say: “When we say words that hurt other people. What should we do?”
Call on students to answer. Answers will vary, but they will most likely say that they should apologize, say sorry, or make things right with a kind or thoughtful gesture.
Repeat what students said out loud for the class to hear.
As you repeat them, slowly uncrinkle the heart bit by bit.
Say: “You are right. When we hurt someone else’s feelings, even if we don’t mean to, we should apologize and try to make things right. However, it definitely takes time to build up trust again. Look at this heart! It is still wrinkled and crinkled. Apologies and kind gestures are the right thing to do, but wrinkles and crinkles can still stay in people’s feelings and hearts. Our words have so much power and an impact on other people.”
Continue on and say: “That’s why it is so important to think before making a comment to someone. If someone cannot change something about themselves in 30 seconds or less, then it is not a comment you should make. For example, if someone has their shoe untied, you can easily tell them and they can change that in 30 seconds or less. However, if you comment on someone’s hair color for example, they cannot change that in 30 seconds or less.”
Say: “It is our goal this week to compliment one another and spread kindness around. We want to fill each other’s hearts and feelings with good words and actions. We don’t want to crinkle other people’s hearts.”
After this, write on the heart in dark, visible writing: “Your words matter.”
Then, post the heart up on the front board or somewhere significant in the classroom for students to see. It can serve as an ongoing reminder to spread kindness around to others and choose words & actions wisely.
This whole group demonstration is so impactful for elementary students! I have used this in multiple different grade levels, all the way up to fifth grade. Especially in upper grade levels, it is all about how you sell it! Students buy into this, especially when your performance is dramatic and attention grabbing! ;)
Keeping the heart posted in your room serves as a great visual reminder. Plus, you can refer back to it in the future if students need another reminder about this life lesson.
If you end up trying the crinkled heart in your class, let me know what you think by sending me a message over on Instagram @always.upper.elementary or tagging me in your posts! I would love to hear about how it worked for you!
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